Laser Eye Surgery: Home or Abroad?

We’re living in a new world, a world dominated by the Coronavirus Pandemic, even forgetting our exit from the European Union. It’s probably fair to say that travelling abroad will never be the same again. However, many still consider going overseas for elective surgery to be cheaper than being treated in the UK.

And, what could be better: going abroad and getting some sun, and at the same time, saving money on a treatment you’ve wanted to have for ages? The last ten years have seen growth in cheap treatments and super-cheap flights.

Laser Eye Surgery and refractive lens surgeries make up a decent percentage of this “medical tourism”. As a treatment that can improve your vision permanently in just a matter of minutes, it’s no surprise why.

There’s no doubting there are many attractions to heading abroad for treatment. But the big question is, is it really worth the risk?

The cost of Laser Eye Surgery Abroad

There’s no denying that Laser Eye Surgery’s actual price can be lower if you travel to popular medical tourism destinations such as India or Thailand.

In the cheapest countries, you could even pay as little as a third of what the treatment may cost back home. And you don’t have to go too far for it—some European countries like Hungary and the Czech Republic offer very cheap Laser Eye Surgery.

The reasons for the lower costs are many. For instance, at a glance, such countries often have a lower cost of living, beneficial exchange rate, and differing medical standards.

However, on closer inspection, lower prices may also reflect the lack of training and experience of surgeons, as well as old or outdated technology and possibly substandard safety protocols.

But sticking to cost, even though the treatment’s actual price may be lower, when you have Laser Eye Surgery abroad, soon the costs can begin to stack up.

As you begin taking into account extra costs, you often find the total cost of having Laser Eye Surgery abroad exceeds that of even the higher cost treatments in the UK.

Here are some of the main additional costs to consider when having Laser Eye Surgery abroad:

  • Flights: A return ticket could cost you upwards of £500 per person. And we say per person because it’s recommended to have someone accompany you home from the clinic. This also excludes any repeat visits, such as aftercare check-ups.
  • Accommodation: As you need to put yourself up while you’re there, you could pay £100-£200 per night for accommodation. You may need to be there for a week, if not two, as you need to arrive in the country a few days before your treatment. It’s also advised not to fly until you’ve been signed off as fit to do so by your surgeon.
  • Insurance: Standard medical insurance usually doesn’t cover medical treatment abroad. You’ll need to take out additional medical insurance, which can cost anything upwards of £200. This is important as if complications arise from your treatment, you will not be covered unless you declared you had it abroad.
  • Days off work: The cost of time spent off work will vary from person to person, especially if you work for yourself or use accumulated holiday days. But if you need to take unpaid leave to fit around flights and treatment times, then you could lose more than you save.
  • Follow-up appointments: As mentioned, you may be required to return to the clinic for follow up aftercare appointments with your surgeon. The costs of flights, accommodation, insurance, and days off work may therefore not be just a one-off expense. This should be factored into your overall calculation of costs.

The risks of having Laser Eye Surgery abroad

Many people have gone abroad for vision correction treatment and have come home happy. However, the research from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) shows there is a higher risk of complications if you do have Laser Eye Surgery outside the UK. Do you really want to increase the risks?

One of the main reasons for this is that there tends to be fewer healthcare regulations in the destinations where Laser Eye Surgery is cheaper. On top of this, language barriers and exclusions of services that are considered as standard in many clinics in the UK, such as a comprehensive screening and aftercare support, can complicate things further.

Here are some of the key questions to ask the clinic when having Laser Eye Surgery either at home or abroad:

What are the surgeon’s qualifications?

There is no global regulatory body for laser vision correction. This means, when having treatment abroad, it’s not only difficult to know the standard of a surgeon but difficult to find out their exact training and who accredited their skills.

In the UK, there are stringent rules in place. At the very least, laser eye surgeons must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) in order to be able to practice. One of the best determiners of a successful laser eye treatment is the training and experience of the surgeon.

Will I meet the surgeon before the treatment?

When travelling abroad for surgery, there are many cost and time constraints that mean most surgeons only offer online consultations before your treatment.

Not being able to meet your surgeon face to face before the day of the treatment is a warning sign. Laser Eye Surgery stays with you for life. And so you want to know you can build a relationship with your surgeon, not only to put your mind at ease before the big day but for the months and years ahead.

Do the staff members speak English?

Many clinics now have doctors, surgeons, and staff who have experience speaking English and treating international patients. However, not all do, and this still doesn’t account for what can often be significant cultural differences.

Language and cultural barriers can make it difficult to feel completely comfortable with your treatment.

Effective communication is fundamental to quality healthcare, and so without it, it can easily lead to problems.

Do the clinic and surgeon have good reviews?

Today, it’s easy to check the reviews of clinics online before choosing a clinic or surgeon. However, reviews verified by an independent body may be more difficult to come across for foreign clinics.

The next best thing is a personal recommendation from someone you trust. This is rarer for clinics and surgeons abroad, with people returning and not being satisfied with the level of care they received. It’s much easier to find someone who has had a great experience in the UK.

What are the healthcare regulations?

As mentioned, some countries have much looser regulations and lower healthcare standards compared to the UK.

This affects the surgeons’ level of training, equipment quality, and the clinical staff’s care and attention. These factors mean that more complications, such as corneal ectasia, epithelial in-growth, and dislocation of the flap— arise from Laser Eye Surgery abroad.

Find out more about Laser Eye Surgery in the UK or book your consultation today by getting in touch with our friendly team of clinic coordinators.